On December 14, 1919, in the city of Trieste, at the Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi, a young Spaniard, born and raised in the fields of Huesca, amazed the world with his voice. James Joyce, who lived in this city, must have read in the press the name of this peasant from Huesca who later, in 1923, and in the New York Metropolitan, was repeatedly acclaimed by an enraged public. Spanish culture has unforgivable oversights, that’s what I thought after watching the excellent documentary that Germán Roda filmed on the life and work of Aragonese tenor Miguel Fleta. I remember when I went to study in Zaragoza, at university, I discovered that one of the main arteries was called Avenida del Tenor Fleta. I thought then that Tenor was a person’s name. Nobody got me out of my mistake until much later. Few people really know who Miguel Fleta was. However, at the end of the twenties of the last century, he was unanimously considered the best tenor in the world.
Miguel Fleta was born on December 1, 1897 in Albalate de Cinca, province of Huesca, and was the youngest of 14 children. By fate he fell into the countryside, goats, potatoes, tomatoes, flies, and underdevelopment, ethics and aesthetics. However, he had a gift, which he first believed had to do with the jack. He learns music in the rondalla of his city, then in Zaragoza, where he takes part in a contest of jotas and does not win. The circumstances of his life make for a romantic novel. Fleta was an unpredictable son of the deep Aragonese countryside, like his compatriot Luis Buñuel. Only Buñuel was lucky and Fleta was not. She fled to Italy with Luisa Pierrick, her singing teacher at the Liceo in Barcelona. And with her, he had two children. They couldn’t get married because Luisa was married. A colossal period scandal. Lots of life entering the heart of Fleta. And it was then, hand in hand with Luisa, that he dazzled the world. No one had ever heard such a voice. Not only was he a voice of incomparable naturalness, but Fleta imposed his own style, his own personality, which earned him disagreements with important musicians of the time, such as Toscanini or Giacomo Puccini himself, who saw how Fleta stole the show. . He was an innovator who touched the hearts of the public. In Italy he was known as Michele Fleta and was thought to be Italian, where else did he come from?
Her performance at the world premiere of Turandot about Puccini at La Scala in Milan in 1926. Unfortunately, no recording of the no sleep sung by Fleta, but I remember his rendition of said tune was legendary. We don’t remember it, but there are countless recordings of Fleta that the Spanish public ignores.
However, it is time for all of Spain to find its Caruso. This year 2022 is the centenary of the premiere of Fleta at the Teatro Real, a premiere that was a popular success. fleta was Elvis Presley of Spain in the 1920s and in 1922 all of Madrid fell at her feet, including King Alfonso XIII. Fleta would marry his second wife, Carmen Mirat, in 1927 in the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca, crowded with people who wanted to see their idol. It was this same year that his physical difficulties began, due to pharyngitis. What followed was a decline that in another country would have been seen as twilight or dignified decadence, and here as ‘it was coming’, or ‘it wasn’t so bad’.
The Spanish Civil War devastated his life. He died in 1938, of uraemia, in La Coruña. Fleta was not an intellectual. He was an artist. He joins the Spanish Phalanx, a mistake that will pay off with the disappearance of his name from Spanish culture. For me, Fleta is another of the greats of what is called the generation of 27 has grown. And he is one of the greats for a simple reason: he was the best tenor in the world. It is our heritage and we are not here to waste it. We are not so rich that we can afford to forget it, because once, to millions of hearts scattered across America and Europe, Miguel Fleta was beauty and life. And although those millions of hearts stopped decades ago, we owe them the memory. And we have Fleta to thank, because she came from nowhere, from the atavistic people, abandoned and wild, adamic and biological, from chance and nature, from the mystery of a place called Albalate de Cinca.
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